Circular reasoning, the commission and canal dredging

Contributing Writer

Circular reasoning is when you attempt to make an argument by beginning with an assumption that what you are trying to prove is already true. In your premise, you already accept the truth of the claim you are attempting to make.

Example of Circular Reasoning: All homeowners benefit equally from dredging some people’s private canals, therefore everyone should pay equally.

At the most recent commission workshop, one commissioner asked the town manager if the WCIND (West Coast inland Navigation District) state agency would pay for some to the canal dredging in the Key Club and Country Club Shores. The TM responded, only if they see a “public benefit” from the dredging project. He cited Cannon’s Marina as serving the public (gas, repairs, supplies, bait, etc.), therefore perhaps eligible for WCIND funding. Other cited public uses included access to a public beach or marina. Clearly the great majority of the canals on LBK do not have a public benefit, since one is not allowed to moor in a narrow navigable channel or tie-up to a dock, as both sides of the canals are privately owned. In short, these canals fail the state criteria for public benefit. Yet the town would have us believe otherwise.

The commission does not apply the same circular reasoning to our beach maintenance financing. Instead we have two taxing districts, where properties west of GMD bear 80% of the costs, based on the assumption that those property owners benefit proportionately more than properties not having direct access to the beach. This formula was approved by the voters. Yet the town commission would have us believe that a house in the village will enjoy a commensurate increase in value as a home County Club Shores with a freshly dredged deep water canal. It factually is not the case. Any real estate agent will tell you so. They will also tell you that Gulf front properties benefit most from multi-million dollar beach re-nourishment projects, and that is why they pay 80% of the cost.

Now let’s talk about the commission’s reversed circular reasoning, as they applied it to undergrounding in the neighborhoods. First, the commission applied the same circular, and faulty, reasoning on GMD as they want to apply to canal dredging. The commission opined that since everyone must traverse GMD to exit the island, everyone benefits equally from undergrounding along GMD, and everyone should pay the same amount, no matter how much road frontage on has on GMD, or no frontage on GMD. The Key Club was assessed the same $2500 for their 1.7 miles of road frontage on GMD, as someone in a neighborhood with no GMD frontage.

This is one of the problems with using circular reasoning to achieve political objectives. It lacks common sense and makes many people sense a lack of proportionality.

Again, most every real estate agent would agree that properties along GMD benefitted disproportionally compared to a property half a mile off the undergrounded road. Fairness and proportionality cannot coexist with circular reasoning, where one is logical, and one is logically faulty.

Back to the second phase of the commission’s bifurcated undergrounding referendum process. Many people proposed to the commission that the entire community would benefit from undergrounding the neighborhoods, and that some sort of proportional assessment formula should be applied to the assessment process. The commission rejected this argument, stating that those already undergrounded should not be made to underwrite any of the costs of upgrading the aesthetics, safety and quality of service, and admitted property value, for people living somewhere else on the island. By fiddling with the electorate demographic, after the first referendum, the town was able to levy an $8000 assessment on most neighborhood properties, while not taxing other properties at all for undergrounding power lines. Assessments for fiber network installation is another matter.

So, for canal dredging in certain neighborhoods, the commission employs one set of illogical, and baseless assumptions, while it applies the opposite reasoning to undergrounding in certain other neighborhoods, while ignoring the logical and fair assessments on beachfront properties, based on reasonable analysis of benefits derived from beach re-nourishment.

I believe that, like neighborhood undergrounding, the town should ask the voters what they feel is fair for sharing of costs for canal dredging. Perhaps Longboat taxpayers will agree with the commission, that everyone should pay equally for canal dredging in CCS and the Key Club, but the commission should ask and stop employing circular reasoning to justify their political ends.

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